Former U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon speaks at his induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor on Oct. 22, 2018 at the the State Capitol. (
The Alabama Academy of Honor inducted five new members today, recognizing them for achievement in civil rights, civic leadership and business.
The academy, created by the Legislature in 1965, includes 100 living members, plus the living governors of Alabama. The academy elects new members.
The five new members are civic leader Walter A. Bell; former U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon; Ann D. Florie, former executive director of Leadership Birmingham; D. Paul Jones, Jr., former chairman and CEO of Compass Bank; and W. Stancil (Stan) Starnes, CEO of ProAssurance Corporation.
The new members were recognized and spoke at an induction ceremony today at the State Capitol.
Here is some of the biographical information on the new inductees included in the program at today’s ceremony:
Bell was born in Buena Vista, Alabama, son of a third-generation farmer who moved the family to Mobile during World War II. Bell graduated from Central High School.
After high school he attended community college in California and served for six years in the California National Guard and was deployed during the Watts riot in Los Angeles and the People Park riot in Berkeley.
Bell moved to Indiana in 1973 and became community relations director for the Indianapolis Urban League. He wrote news articles and speeches, hosted two weekly radio shows and a monthly television show. In 1976, he produced a stage play, “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.”
Bell returned to Mobile in 1978 and founded the Mobile County Urban League, launching a 40-year career of involvement in civic, charitable, educational and economic programs.
Gov. Bob Riley appointed Bell to serve as Alabama Insurance Commissioner. From 2008 to 2015, Bell was chairman of the Swiss Re America Holding Corporation, a $17 billion subsidiary of the Swiss Reinsurance Company.
Bell graduated from Spring Hill College and served as a trustee there for 13 years. Bell’s son, W. Kamau Bell, is host of the Emmy-winning CNN show, “United Shades of America.”
Clemon was born in Fairfield in 1943, the son of sharecroppers who migrated from Mississippi.
As a student at Miles College, he participated in the Birmingham campaign for civil rights launched by Martin Luther King Jr., the campaign that led to confrontations with Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor. After obtaining a law degree from Columbia University, he represented black plaintiffs in major civil rights litigation against the Jefferson County school board, United States Steel Corporation, Pullman Standard Corporation and the city of Birmingham.
President Jimmy Carter appointed Clemon in 1980 to be Alabama’s first African-American judge. He retired from the bench in 2009 and resumed practicing law.
Florie, a native of Weldon, Ark., received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Newcomb College of Tulane University.
Florie was the founding executive director of Region 2020, which promoted cooperation and citizen involvement in a 12-county area in affordable housing, education, arts and culture, transportation and land use.
She served as executive director of Leadership Birmingham. Florie is an appointed member of the Jefferson County Personnel Board and serves on the executive committee of the Birmingham Business Alliance and the board of directors for the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.
She was on the Mountain Brook Board of Education for 10 years.
Jones, born in 1942, received degrees in business and in law from the University of Alabama. He began practicing law with the predecessor to the Birmingham law firm Balch & Bingham in 1967.
In 1978, Jones joined Compass Bancshares (then Central Bancshares) as senior vice president and general counsel. He served as president of the Alabama Bankers Association. Jones was a director for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta from 1993 to 2009.
Jones became chairman and CEO of Compass in 1991, a position he held until his retirement in 2008. Compass grew under his leadership to operate 622 offices in seven states and was ranked as the 26th largest bank in the nation based on deposits.
Starnes graduated from Shades Valley High School in 1965 at the age of 16. He obtained a business degree from the University of Alabama. In 1972, Starnes graduated first in his class with a law degree from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University.
In 1975, Starnes and his father established the law firm now known as Starnes Davis Florie. Starnes defended physicians and others in health care cases, including national and international clients. He wrote the Alabama Medical Liability Act, passed by the Legislature in 1987, as well as amendments to the law.
In 2007, Starnes was named chairman and CEO of ProAssurance Corporation, an insurance company that operates in all 50 states and focuses on health care issues.
This story will be updated.